GNZ Bioscience

Kawakawa – A Unique Skin Health Ingredient from New Zealand

By Dr. Suki Harding

You will find kawakawa extract in some of our SEWA FAMILY skincare products, including XmaCalmTM Balm XmaCalmTM Baby Balm and Clarity Blemish Balm.

Kawakawa (Piper excelsum), a traditional Māori medicinal plant native to New Zealand, has garnered increasing attention in recent years for its potential as a highly effective skin health ingredient. The leaves of this shrub have been used for centuries by indigenous Māori people for their therapeutic properties. Recent scientific research has provided valuable insights into the beneficial effects of kawakawa on skin health, supporting its incorporation into modern skincare products.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties:

Kawakawa is rich in polyphenols and flavonoids such as myricetin and quercetin, which exhibit potent anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation plays a key role in various skin conditions, such as acne, eczema and psoriasis. By reducing inflammation, kawakawa extracts can help alleviate symptoms and promote healthier skin.

Antioxidant Protection

The presence of antioxidants in kawakawa, particularly catechins, can help neutralize harmful free radicals in the skin. Free radicals are known to accelerate aging and contribute to skin damage. Antioxidant activity of kawakawa can protect skin cells from oxidative stress, thereby promoting a youthful complexion.

Wound Healing

Traditionally, kawakawa leaves were applied topically to wounds and skin irritations. Scientific studies have confirmed its wound-healing and scar reducing properties, attributing these effects to compounds like polygodial that gives kawakawa its distinctive peppery taste.

Anti-Microbial Properties

Kawakawa has demonstrated antimicrobial activity against a range of bacteria and fungi. This can be beneficial in treating conditions like acne, where microbial overgrowth can exacerbate symptoms. Incorporating kawakawa into skincare products may help combat these infections.

Skin Barrier Support

Kawakawa contains essential fatty acids, such as linoleic acid, which are crucial for maintaining the skin’s natural barrier function. A healthy skin barrier prevents moisture loss and protects against external pollutants, promoting overall skin health.

Skin Calming Effects

Kawakawa extracts have a soothing and calming effect on the skin, making them suitable for individuals with sensitive or irritated skin. It can help reduce redness and discomfort associated with various skin conditions.

While traditional uses of kawakawa have long highlighted its skin benefits, modern scientific research continues to unveil the mechanisms underlying its efficacy. As consumers seek natural and plant-based skincare options, kawakawa stands out as a promising ingredient with a rich history and a growing body of evidence to support its use in promoting holistic skin health and radiance.


Naqvi, S. W. (2020). Separation and Characterization of Polyphenols Prevailing in NZ Herbal Leaves Kawakawa (Macropiper excelsum) and Determination of Compounds in its Essential Oil (Doctoral dissertation, ResearchSpace@ Auckland).

Richardson, A. T. (2015),  Hot new chemistry from a kiwi pepper treeChem. NZ79, 91-93.

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